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Mozart: Symphonies 39 & 41 / Gardiner, English Baroque Soloists

Mozart / Ebs / Gardiner
Release Date: 02/22/2011 
Label:  Soli Deo Gloria Records   Catalog #: 711   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Conductor:  John Eliot Gardiner
Orchestra/Ensemble:  English Baroque Soloists
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
In Stock: Usually ships in 24 hours.  

Notes and Editorial Reviews

Fine, vital live performances of two of Mozart’s greatest symphonies.


MOZART Symphonies: No. 39; No 41 John Eliot Gardiner, cond; English Bar Sol SOLI DEO GLORIA 711 (66:50)

The playing of these brightly paced, joyous performances of familiar Mozart symphonies is remarkable enough. The story behind the disc I am listening to provides additional fascination. This Read more is a live recording of a concert on February 9, 2006, in London’s Cadogan Hall. The producer and John Eliot Gardiner decided to borrow a sales technique from rock bands, which somehow contrive to make compact discs so quickly that they sell the recordings of the just-completed concert to the exited crowd. The Mozart concert opened with the two symphonies found here. While on stage the Monteverdi Choir and the English Baroque Soloists were collaborating on the C-Minor Mass, the relevant people were manufacturing the discs that held the live performances of the symphonies. There were glitches, and some customers had to wait. And during the performances there were evidently a few minor mistakes and major coughs, all of which have been removed in the disc I am now listening to.

None of that would matter if the performances were not as striking as they turn out to be. These are period-instrument recordings with a small orchestra. That matters from the opening drum taps, which in another favorite recording, that of Colin Davis, are submerged in the orchestra. Here they stand out distinctly. The performance doesn’t seem small in any way. In fact, I admire Gardiner who, knowing that the band was being recorded, still opted for the invigorating tempos we hear throughout and especially in the finales. His strings are precise, the orchestra is balanced, and there are subtle effects, changes in dynamics and texture, throughout. The music seems to swing at times, and favorite passages, like the clarinet solos in Symphony No. 39, couldn’t be lovelier. This is a thoroughly appealing disc.

FANFARE: Michael Ullman


I remember reading about this concert in the press at the time that it was given. In what was then a ground-breaking venture, a CD of these two symphonies was produced pretty much on the spot and was made available to the audience at the end of the evening. What I hadn’t realised, until reading the entertaining booklet note by producer Isabella de Sabata, was that the two symphonies constituted part one of the concert and the disc production, which was not without incident, went on behind the scenes while the audience enjoyed a second half performance of Mozart’s C minor Mass. Since then a few other organisations have followed this path – I attended a concert at Birmingham about eighteen months ago and came away with a live recording of the Berlioz Grand Messe des Morts, no less ( review). But, it seems, The English Baroque Soloists got there first, and good for them! Now the recording has been made available to collectors generally.

Miss de Sabata tells us that in preparing the recording for general release “a few adjustments [have been made] and a couple of very disturbing coughs removed.” Whatever editing has gone on seems to have been very discreet and I was left with the feeling that I’d listened to two genuinely ‘live’ readings in good sound and with very little evidence of audience noise.

The performances themselves are spirited and refined and I enjoyed them very much. There may have been a few slight instances of imprecision in the playing that would have been ironed out under studio conditions but I can’t say I heard any glaring inaccuracies and certainly nothing that impeded my enjoyment of the music-making.

Symphony 39 is one of my favourite Mozart pieces. Here, after a patrician introduction, the first movement allegro is lithe and purposeful. Gardiner shapes II delicately and his players shade the music with matching delicacy; a graceful performance ensues. The minuet has sturdy eloquence and I particularly enjoyed the trio where the clarinets make a pleasing contribution – not least the decoration that Guy Cowley imparts to the melody on its last appearance. The crisp finale is full of zest and brio. The playing of the EBS is distinguished by clean articulation – a virtue throughout this disc – and I relished the very natural energy that the musicians bring to the music.

The Jupiter is equally successful. I can imagine that some listeners might feel that the pace adopted in II is somewhat fleet. I can only say that I welcomed the forward momentum that Gardiner brings to the proceedings and though his tempo is flowing I found no lack of sympathy in the phrasing. The minor key episodes have a nice degree of piquancy. The minuet, which has a completely different character to that of Number 39, is on the swift side but it’s not over-hasty. The performance is capped off with a vibrant, ebullient reading of Mozart’s virtuoso finale. Here, perhaps more than anywhere else on the disc, the listener can really appreciate the clarity with which the performers deliver Mozart’s music.

Any small slips in the playing are a small price to pay beside the vitality of these two Mozart performances. As ever, SDG’s presentation standards are high: the notes by Duncan Druce are succinct and expertly written. I’m delighted that these fine performances have now been made available to the general public.

-- John Quinn, MusicWeb International
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Works on This Recording

Symphony no 39 in E flat major, K 543 by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Conductor:  John Eliot Gardiner
Orchestra/Ensemble:  English Baroque Soloists
Period: Classical 
Written: 1788; Vienna, Austria 
Date of Recording: 02/09/2006 
Venue:  Cadogan Hall, London 
Symphony no 41 in C major, K 551 "Jupiter" by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Conductor:  John Eliot Gardiner
Orchestra/Ensemble:  English Baroque Soloists
Period: Classical 
Written: 1788; Vienna, Austria 
Date of Recording: 02/09/2006 
Venue:  Cadogan Hall, London 

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